A military enthusiast turned into a human fireball in front of horrified Armistice Day crowds after he lit a paraffin lamp inside a tent which then burst into flames.
Bystanders at the Cambridge event battled to save the man with blankets and water as the screaming victim came running out of the tent with his clothes on fire on Saturday.
The man suffered serious burns to 30 per cent of his body. He was initially admitted to Waikato Hospital's intensive care unit in a critical condition, but was transferred to the burns ward late yesterday and was described as stable.
A hospital spokeswoman said he was heavily sedated. He would be at the hospital for at least a week.
The 45-year-old was attending Armistice Day commemorations at the Memorial Park when the accident happened about 3pm.
The event was attended by up to 12,000 people but the man's tent was 200m from the main attraction area, towards the Hautapu Rugby clubrooms.
Waikato regional fire commander Roy Breeze was there with his 9-year-old son and saw the drama unfold.
"They had just announced a live demonstration was about to happen near the tent sites, then this guy came running out of the tent in a ball of flames."
Mr Breeze said it looked like something out of a movie stunt, but he quickly realised what was unfolding was in no way part of the show.
"I realised it was real and this guy was in trouble. I ran over and threeor four others were trying to tackle him."
The man fell to the ground but then tried getting up to run.
He yelled at the man to roll on the ground and took charge for co-ordination of the crowd.
Mr Breeze praised the bystanders for doing everything correctly by grabbing blankets and finding water, and gave them credit for saving the man from a more serious fate.
He said it appeared the man had been handling flammable liquid, and when it ignited he got a fright, spilling a large part of it on himself.
St John regional operations manager Brent Nielsen, also on the local organising committee for the event, said the man was the only occupant of the tent at the time and no one else was injured.
A St John crew on standby was able to administer treatment almost immediately.
An ambulance was called and the Cambridge volunteer fire service was also brought in to manage the firerisk.
The chairman of the Armistice Day committee, Rob Feisst, said a report on the incident would be compiled with input from St John and police, and issues over the use of equipment would form part of the inquiry.
As well as the formal commemorative ceremony, the weekend of events at Cambridge included battle re-enactments, flyovers and aerobatics, military vehicle parades and demonstrations, parachutists and a militaria market.